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How to make Soy-free Tempeh - Red Lentil Tempeh

How to make Soy-free Tempeh - Red Lentil Tempeh

Tempeh, you either love it or hate it. 
Just like all fermented foods, it is an acquired taste, but once you start to like it... you are hooked.

The traditional Indonesian Tempeh is made with soy beans but just like miso, Tempeh making is not limited to soy and you can use other ingredients to ferment.

I love to use different types of legumes, grains and even nuts and seeds to make this exciting. 

In this post I want to show how I make my red lentil tempeh which I like to use as vegan burger patties or for little appetizers. (Which will share in the next blog once you have the tempeh ready!) 

To ferment tempeh, traditionally it is done in banana leaves, but in modern kitchens, most people will use ziplock bags which works perfectly fine but one downside is that you can only use the bags one time.

I like to use reusable containers and also have bit fun with the shapes that you can create with the different molds! 

For the round "patty" shape, I use the maki sushi mold. Obviously, this is to shape rice but it has enough holes and perfect to make a "sausage" shape with the tempeh.


This is what the tempeh looks like when you use this mold.

Red Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh

Another one I like to use to make a "burger patty" is the pickle maker. It has a nice round shape that you can slide the tempeh out when it is ready.

 This is what it looks like when it is ready.

Red Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh

Once the Tempeh is ready its solid and you can slice them into serving sizes and cook them too!  

You only need 4 ingredients to make tempeh. 

  1. Legume of your choice 
  2. Tempeh Starter
  3. Vinegar
  4. ... and water to boil the beans.

Legume of your choice
As you already know, the legume can be almost anything you like. Just needs to be cooked so that its edible but not too soft that it will fall apart, so that can be the challenging part as every legume will be different. Our recipe is the weight of the raw (uncooked) dry legume, so if you are going to use canned (cooked) beans, you'll need to double or triple the weight of the legume for this recipe. 

Tempeh Starter
Just like any kind of fermentation, it will be easier to ferment with a "starter". We use a tempeh starter that is a rice flour based tempeh starter inoculated with Rhizopus Oligosporus. This starter is suitable to be used to make most types of tempeh, including soy tempeh, chickpea tempeh, rice tempeh, barley tempeh and any of the pulses and seeds. It is NON GMO and animal product free so its totally safe to be used in vegan and vegetarian cooking.

We like to use Apple Cider Vinegar - which we call "ACV"! but it can be any vinegar. The reason why you need this is not for the taste. It is to make the beans acidic (lower pH) to prevent the growth of unwanted bacteria. 

The fermentation will take about 24 to 48 hours in a HOT summer room temperature that is around 30°C. No detect sunlight will be great.
The most important thing might be a stable temperature. Select a place where the temperature will not go up and down. We used to use a broken refrigerator and just kept the tempeh in there. The tempeh came out so perfect that I couldn't get rid of the fridge anymore and it became a tempeh making box... Anyway!! 

Why did I choose red lentil and pine nuts? I like the color of the red lentil (Trying to mimic a meat patty here!) and the small size of the lentils that makes it easier to mold into different shape molds. I added the pine nuts for the flavor. When you pan fry of grill the tempeh with the pine nuts in... yummmmmmm!

So! Here goes the recipe :)

Red Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
(Will make x1 of the maki shape and x1 of the pickle maker that can be sliced into 3 patties) 

200g, Red Lentils (Raw) 
50g, Pine Nuts 

1 tsp., Tempeh Starter 
1Tbsp, Apple Cider Vinegar 

Tools that might be useful to make the patty shape 
Kai Thick Maki Roll Mold
Glass Asazuke Pickle Maker


  1. To prepare the red lentil beans. measure 200g of the dry lentils and rinse off well. It is normal for the water to turn murky. Rinse off a few times and drain. NO NEED to soak! 

    Red Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh

  2. To cook the red lentils, for this recipe we want the beans to be cooked but not too soft. Pour about 1.5 L of water in a saucepan and bring it to a boil first. Add the rinse and drained lentils to the water and boil it for 10 minutes. When the lentils are cooked but not falling apart that is perfect. Quickly drain off the water and let the lentils cool off. DO NOT let the lentils sit in the hot water or they will get too soft to make tempeh.

    Red Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
  3. Place the cooked lentils in a mixing bowl and add the pine nuts in and add the Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to the beans and mix well. Let the mixture cool off to room temperature.

    Red Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
  4. Make sure the beans are cooled down to room temperature and add the teaspoon full of tempeh starter and sprinkle it all on top of the beans and mix well. 

    Red Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
  5. Prepare the fermentation mold. If you are using the pickling jar, line it with cooking paper and pour the beans in and flatten it down so that it is tightly packed. Cover with the lid and set aside.

    Red Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
  6. If you are using the sushi mold, rinse well and make sure the container is dry. Pour in the tempeh mixture and cover the lid. Make sure that you have enough mixture inside so that when you close the lid of the mold, it will be "packed" inside the mold. Set aside.
    Red Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
  7. For the fermentation, keep the tempeh in a warm place with NO direct sunlight for 24 to 48 hours according to the temperature and humidity. If you have an enclosed box, that will be a great place to ferment. 

    Red Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
  8. When it is ready, it will look like this! Covered with beautiful white mold and it is normal to be warm. The tempeh generated heat when it ferments. 
    Some spots might have some black mold. This is also normal and you can cut off that area and use the rest. 
    Red Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
    Red Lentil and Pine Nuts TempehRed Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
  9. Once the tempeh is ready, you can make your favorite tempeh recipe with this now! 
    To store, place the tempeh  in an airtight container and keep it in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 


  10. Red Lentil and Pine Nuts Tempeh
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